Vernon’s WWII family photo wallet

For this Veteran’s Day post, I’ll be looking at an artifact that illuminates the early relationship between two veterans in my family—one who served during WWII, and one who was still two decades away from serving and was too young to understand the sacrifices his father and his family were making.

This post is about a wallet of loose photos that my grandfather, Vernon C. Black, carried with him during World War II to remind him of his family back home. My grandmother, Dorothy R. (McMurry) Black, took the photos, captioned them, and mailed them in letters she sent almost daily (most of which still survive and will undoubtedly be the topic of a series of blog posts in the future). She also cared for the wallet and photos for decades and thoughtfully left a note giving a brief history of the wallet.

This photo wallet was carried by Vernon Curtis Black with these pictures in it during WWII (carried in his right hip pocket.) —Dorothy R. Black

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James McMurry’s letter to the “grands”

Today’s post is about a letter that James Miller McMurry wrote to his “Grands”—presumably his grandnephew Arthur (Art) and Art’s wife Ezelpha. I received a photocopy of this letter from my grandmother, Dorothy Ruth McMurry Black—Arthur’s first cousin. I saw the original letter in 1990 when visiting Art, and I’m hoping someone in the family still has this letter.

I hadn’t read this letter in over 25 years, and upon re-reading it I discovered a bounty of new information: I learned of another two relatives who fought in the Civil War, including one who possibly died at Shiloh. I realized that the recipient was my cousin Arthur Edgar McMurry, not my great-great-grandfather Arthur Webster McMurry. I learned a bit about James McMurry’s wife Grace Aitken and her life before she and James met. I learned a bit more about the timing of the McMurry’s move to Arkansas, and the location of their land there. I got a bit of description of the area around James’ last home, in Sutter County, California. I also learned a bit more about James’ adopted son and his latest sailing voyage. Continue reading

Mo’ land, mo’ taxes

I found another few interesting tidbits about my third-great-grandfather and everyone’s favorite Minnesota Askew family patriarch, Joseph Askew (1840–1911). I was scouring a new Wadena newspaper title I ran across recently, and I discovered that Joseph Askew owned two additional parcels of land I hadn’t previously known about. Each of the two parcels was 40 acres, so this was a total of 80 additional acres of land.

Below I present a portion of a supplement included in the Thursday, July 24th, 1884, edition of The Northern Pacific Farmer, a short-lived paper that was published in Wadena, Minnesota, between 1878 and 1885. The supplement was entitled “Delinquent Tax List.” Uh oh. Continue reading

Thank you, Hiram Scott (part 3)

In the first installment of this series, I introduced my fourth-great-grandfather, Hiram Scott, who died in New Orleans while serving the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War. On observation of this past Memorial Day, I wanted to honor his memory by learning as much as I can about him, with a eye towards uncovering his birth family and his early life. If you haven’t yet read the first and second posts in this series, you should read them (here and here) before continuing with this post.

In today’s post, I’ll be laying out what I know about Hiram Scott’s military service during the U.S. Civil War. I haven’t yet been able to find his Civil War Compiled Service Record, so I’ll be relying on inferences I can draw from his personal history and from the regimental history of the 95th Illinois Volunteers. Continue reading

Thank you, Hiram Scott (part 2)

In the first installment of this series, I introduced my fourth-great-grandfather, Hiram Scott, who died in New Orleans while serving in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. This Memorial Day, I want to honor his memory by learning as much as I can about him, with a eye towards uncovering his birth family and his early life. If you haven’t yet read that first post, you should read it now before continuing with this post.

In this second post in the series, I’ll lay out, examine, and document everything I know about the life of Hiram Scott, so that I’ll have a broad base of information to use when evaluating potential evidence for Hiram’s early life and birth family. Continue reading

Thank you, Hiram Scott (part 1)

Unlike Veterans Day, which celebrates the service of all U.S. veterans, Memorial Day was specifically set aside for remembering and honoring those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice and died while in military service. For this Memorial Day, I want to honor the memory of one of my direct ancestors who died while serving his country in the U.S. Civil War: Private Hiram Scott of Company C of the Illinois Infantry Volunteers.

Hiram Scott is my fourth-great-grandfather. He was the great-grandfather of the the great-grandmother I was lucky enough to know for the first fourteen years of my life—Gertrude Scott Askew.

Hiram Scott fought for the Union Army along with the three of his sons who were old enough to serve: Horace, Willard, and James. Willard and James survived the war, while Horace “contracted disability which resulted in his death” five years later. Their father, Hiram, however, never returned home from the war. To this day he remains buried where he died—in New Orleans, a long way from his home and family in northern Illinois.

Horace’s birthplace, parents, siblings, and pretty much the entire first half of his life have been an enduring mystery for me. Over the past three decades I have repeatedly hit brick walls while trying to uncover the details of his birth and the first half of his life, including the identities of his parents and siblings. What little I information I have found about his early years has been sparse, often speculative, and frequently contradictory. In this post, I want to do my best to break though this brick wall to learn about Hiram Scott, an ancestor I want to remember and honor on this Memorial Day. Continue reading

Mystery Scott photo album, part 1

Today’s post is about a photo album that’s intrigued me since I first saw it about four years ago. I’ve shared a couple of the photos from the album in previous blog posts, referring to the album in which I found them as an album that probably belonged to my great-great-grandfather Frank Scott. The album itself is quite fascinating and is filled with photos from the 1920s of a well-to-do couple named “Roland and Flo” who apparently liked to travel quite a bit.

The photo album presents a comfortable but curious mix of people from two distinct socioeconomic strata. The first group includes my known Scott relations (my great-grandmother Gertrude Scott Askew, her sister Cassie Scott, her father Frank Scott, and his second wife Lois Lanudge Scott)—poorer folk working multiple jobs to make ends meet and living in rural Wadena county, Minnesota. The second group appears to center around the couple named Roland and Flo—an apparently well-heeled and well-traveled couple.

But who were Roland and Flo? Until last week, despite having records on over 13,000 people in my family history database, not a single one of those people was named Roland, and none of the women named Flo or Florence were possible candidates for Flo in the photo album. Continue reading